Recent History – 2001
May 17, 2001
By Mark Nielsen, Daily News Staff
BC Liberals celebrated a huge victory last night, and it wasn’t different in the Peace Region.
B.C. Liberal candidate Blair Lekstrom took Peace River South in a landslide Wednesday, capturing 64.2 per cent of the votes cast, leaving him both elated and a little tongue-tied.
“Don’t mind if I stutter a little, I’m a little lost,” a visibly nervous Lekstrom told supporters after tripping over a few words.
The clear front-runner from the outset, Lekstrom knew that it was his campaign to lose. He took a cautious approach, saying outright that he won’t be making any big promises other than to do his best.
And with Social Credit candidate Grant Mitton using all the tools at his disposal, Lekstrom said he was on pins and needles up until television projected that he would win the constituency.
“I can tell you there wasn’t a day that I didn’t wake up scared and I didn’t work hard, and I didn’t go to bed and be scared,” he said.
Worries aside, Lekstrom said he felt all the candidates ran fair campaigns, based on issues, not personality attacks. But he did express some criticism for the New Democratic Party (NDP), which was soundly ousted from power.
“I’m not one to pick on the other government, but they took a wrong turn and the direction they were headed was the wrong direction,” he said.
“And tonight what we see is an overwhelming support by British Columbians to turn the corner and make the changes that are necessary in our province.”
And changes are what British Columbians wanted. They voted the BC Liberals in 75 ridings, giving only two for the NDP. There are still two ridings that were being contested because of close results.
Lekstrom added that he hopes to continue where retiring-Peace River South MLA Jack Weisgerber left off.
“I think certainly that if I’m able to follow through on what Jack has been able to do with the honour and the integrity that I believe he brought to the legislature, that’s my plan and that’s my commitment to you. I’m going to work hard on your behalf,” he said.
Mitton, who attracted 17.5 per cent, and an entourage of his supporters paid a visit to congratulate the B.C. Liberals and Lekstrom on their win.
“We’re as certain as we can be that he will do a darned good job for us here in the north . . . he’s got a big job ahead of him, it’s a very important riding,” Mitton said.
Only one of two Socred candidates in the province, Mitton said the party will be rebuilt in the interim. “We’re going to be ready, we’re going to field a full slate of candidates next election,” he said.
NDP candidate Elmer Kabush said the outcome province-wide, with the B.C. Liberals winning 75 of 79 seats, is proof that a form of proportional representation is needed so that seats are distributed according to the percentage of popular vote each party receives.
The NDP fell one seat short of official party status, but Kabush hopes that for the sake of democracy the B.C. Liberals will allow them the resources necessary to be an effective opposition.
“If they don’t do that, we’re in trouble,” he said.
Lekstrom said the B.C. Liberal caucus will probably hold their first meeting within a week.
The upstart Green Party made some inroads in this election, but failed to win any seats and received about 12 per cent of the vote.
See page 9 for full coverage on the election.